ACT puts Scrooge in your head this year

Dec 07

James Carpenter revisits the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in American Conservatory Theater’s A Christmas Carol: On Air, an audio adaptation of the beloved annual production. Photo by Kevin Berne. Some years I’ve had it up to hear with A Christmas Carol and want nothing to do with the Cratchits, the crutch and bah humbugs. Other years, I feel like...

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Imaginary discomfort rules at Berkeley Rep

Oct 13

<i>Imaginary</i> discomfort rules at Berkeley Rep

The first time I head the title for the new play by Daniel Handler, the San Francisco writer behind the popular Lemony Snicket books, I was confused. Imaginary Comforts, or The Story of the Ghost of the Dead Rabbit is the title, and it wasn't the Snickety-y subtitle that perplexed me. It was the notion that comfort could be imaginary. Isn't comfort comforting no matter where it comes from? You can receive comfort from an external source (a parent, a pet, a narcotic) or you can just imagine comfort (memory, dream, hallucination), but as long as you are comforted, job done...at least for a little while, right?

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Berkeley Rep’s warning: it can so happen here

Oct 01

Berkeley Rep’s warning: it can <i>so</i> happen here

Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s It Can’t Happen Here is a nightmare on so many levels, and that’s mostly a good thing in the world-premiere adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel.

This is the right story at the right time, and therein lies the dark heart of this nightmare.

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Fractured tales confound in ACT’s Love and Information

Jun 18

Fractured tales confound in ACT’s <i>Love and Information</i>

Confounding and captivating in equal measure, American Conservatory Theater's debut production in the newly renovated Strand Theater certainly lives up to its title. Caryl Churchill's Love and Information sounds like a generic title for just about anything in our short-attention-span world, on or off line, and that seems to be part of the point.

More like a curated collection of scenes and short films than an actual play...

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Cal Shakes sculpts a vital, vivacious Pygmalion

Aug 06

Cal Shakes sculpts a vital, vivacious <i>Pygmalion</i>

When real life comes in and smacks Prof. Henry Higgins across the face, it's a wonderful thing to see this brilliant yet stunted man consider, perhaps for the first time in his life, that kindness may have worth akin to genius.

The force representing the real world – a world of messiness and emotion and connection – takes the form of Eliza Doolittle, an extraordinary young woman who is the intellectual if not social equal of Higgins and his superior when it comes to living life as most of humanity experiences it.

One of the great things about the California Shakespeare Theater production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion is how balanced it is.

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In praise of Anthony and Sharon and Lorri and Spike

Sep 26

In praise of Anthony and Sharon and Lorri and <i>Spike</i>

If you spend any time at all going to theater in the San Francisco Bay Area, you soon see that we have some extraordinary homegrown talent populating our local stages. That's not empty boosterism – rah, Bay Area! – but something nearing actual fact – rah, working Bay Area actors in it for the long haul! In just the last month or so, Marin Theatre Company, TheatreWorks, Aurora Theatre Company, American Conservatory Theater and Magic Theatre have opened their seasons with at least one dazzling, shake-your-head-in-wonder performance by a Bay Area actor.

Now Berkeley Repertory Theatre gives a triple scoop of local actor goodness in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the local premiere of Christopher Durang's Tony Award-winning comedy.

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